Calendaring on Linux and Android, again

2012/05/10 at 11:58

One of the things I dearly hate about working on Linux is calendaring. There are many options for calendars, and over the years I’ve found they all work to some extent, but don’t support all my requirements. I think my requirements are fairly standard:

  • Calendars must be available on all my machines, including my phones.

I was trying to think of more requirements to justify a bullet list, but really I can’t. When I say „available“ I mean „out of the box“, without having to set up some fancy convoluted solution involving shell scripts that copy calendar files around, which is actually what I’ve seen too often as a suggested solution to overcome calendaring shortcomings on Linux.

Over the years, I’ve been using Sunbird (I liked it a lot, but it’s unfortunately a dead end and won’t run on my 64-bit boxes any more), Thunderbird Lightning, and KOrganizer. I looked at other stuff such as Kontact on KDE, but that simply, uh, won’t fit my needs.

KOrganizer was good enough for me, until I started using an Android phone this week. I bet there are zillions of apps for that phone that would support my WebDAV-based ICS calendars, but that’s exactly the problem. I tried a few, but they were either trial ones, or full of spam, or messed up my Android interface, and so on, and I don’t intend to spend my time investigating lots of crap, hoping I’ll stumble across a working solution some day.

So, once I had given up that idea, I converted my ICS calendars to Google calendars. I don’t feel overly comfortable doing this, because I’m one of the old fashioned crowd who believe that private data should be mostly on private machines that I have control of. Anyway, I did that, and my Google calendars display fine in the standard Android calendar app that came with my phone (Samsung Galaxy S2).

The next step was to make them show up in KOrganizer. Google uses CalDAV. KOrganizer uses Akonadi (on KDE 4.x) which is a service that runs in the background and is used to attach calendars and all kinds of similar stuff to „KDE“, in this case to make calendars available for KOrganizer. Akonadi features CalDAV and Google calendars, as you can see from this screen shot:Akonadi options on KDE 4.x

So there must be a way to attach my Google calendars in KOrganizer, right? Well, wrong, at least for me. I searched a lot, found a dozen blog or forum posts and stuff, but they were all referring to some slightly different setup than mine (why do developers change the interfaces all the time), or simply didn’t work. I was able to work around a „wrong password“ error (guess what? the password was correct, it was some fancy openSuse proxy thing that could be fixed in the KDE system settings by selecting „direct internet connection“), and eventually had a Google calendar show up in KOrganizer, except it wouldn’t display any events. Long story short, I gave up after having wasted too much time on this already, and looked at Thunderbird Lightning again (which I had given up on several years ago when it developed a habit of resetting my ICS calendars to zero byte length).

Thunderbird Lightning 1.4 supports CalDAV calendars, and thus Google calendars, out of the box. At least in theory. In practice, it does pretty much the same I had just experienced with KOrganizer: calendars are there, but don’t display any events. With Lightning, I found that, when setting up a Google calendar, it wouldn’t prompt me for username and password (and no, most of my calendars are definitely not public). That can’t be right! So I searched more, and finally found that you’ll have to install yet another add-on in Thunderbird, called Provider for Google Calendar 0.9.

With that add-on, Google calendars work fine. And not just that, the developer’s web page points out which of the many Google calendar links you’ll have to use. In the Google calendar web interface, select „Calendar settings“ from the little pull-down menu that appears when hovering the mouse over the calendar name in the left sidebar. On the next page, scroll down to the bottom, and here’s what you’ll have to select:

Google calendar links

In the window that opens, copy the link address. That’s the one to be used for Lightning.

In Lightning, select „New calendar“, „calendar on the network“, select „Google calendar“ (this is what the Provider for Google Calendar add-on provides), paste the link address, and done. Things can be so easy once you know your way around. 😉

To wrap up, this is what I did to get Google calendars working in KDE:

  • In Thunderbird, install the Lightning add-on.
  • In Thunderbird, install the Provider for Google calendar add-on.
  • In the Google Calendar web interface, edit the calendar, click the proper XML button, and copy the URL (link).
  • In Lightning, create a new calendar „on the network“, type: „Google calendar“, and paste the URL (link) from the Google Calendar web interface. You’ll be prompted for your Google username and password.
  • Do so for every Google calendar you wish to add to Lightning. Note that you’ll be prompted for your Google credentials for each calendar you add.

Some might wonder why I don’t simply stick to the Google Calendar web interface, which is really nice and configurable for my needs. Well, I don’t want my calendars to be just another browser tab. I have around 30 browser tabs (Firefox app tabs) open all the time, but calendars are simply too important for my daily (or should I say hourly) work, and I don’t want them to be even slightly buried in the browser.

Good luck with setting up your remote calendars on Linux!


Entry filed under: Computer, English, Linux, Open Source.

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